Friday, 6 January 2012
Passing on the Light at Bagley
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
A match is struck. One central candle is lit. Two stewards light candles from this one and make their way down a central aisle, lighting just one candle at the end of every row.
If the light of Christ is going to spread, it will only be by you and I passing it on.
This is a tradition at Bagley Baptist Church, described to me by elder Bob Drew who has been around for these Christmas Eve Candlelight Services for forty years. What's striking is the way the growth of the church has mirrored the lighting of candles they enact every year.
Bagley Baptist Church didn't ought to be large; it's in a village of about 20 houses and the buildng they now use is hidden away, its roof tastefully concealed at road level to keep the planning authorities happy.
But it's a church built by faith. Bob and his wife used to take their children to Stoneleigh Bible Week, and on one occasion they were accosted by a stranger who chased them to their caravan.
"God told me to tell you that he's going to increase your church threefold" he said.
The Bagley eldership took this as God's word, and realising they would need additional parking space, bought some land next to the church. Soon - without doing anything different - they had doubled in size, and needed a new building.
"God brought the money in - and the experts we needed" says Bob. All this time, the church continued to grow.
The Candlelight Service has always had a good attendance. "In the old church, that would be 100. Sometimes we had to ask our people not to come!" The half-built new church was used - with walls but no roof - to fit everyone in one Christmas (see picture). The new building was finally completed in 2007, and then this year attendance on Christmas Even reached at least 280.
"It is a crazy place to have a church that holds 600" says Bob, "but this is where God's placed us." Clearly, it's also a place where many have been faithful in passing on the light.